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Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures

Frequently asked Questions

The following are some of the most frequently asked questions by incoming students to the University of South Carolina.

The foreign language placement exam is an assessment tool that the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures uses to determine the course in our curriculum that is right for your level in a given language.

In short, you probably do.  Most students will need to take a foreign language placement exam to either place into or out of our curriculum unless you have transferring foreign language credit that transfers to USC as a direct equivalent to one of our courses.

Placement exams are offered in Ancient Greek, Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. If your language is not listed here, and you wish to fulfill your foreign language requirement in that language, email your request to

All majors require demonstration of a certain level of proficiency in a foreign language, but these requirements vary according to a student’s major area of interest.  To determine your requirement, you need to decide on a major and look at the foreign language requirement for the College or School in which your major is located.  You can find foreign language requirements for each College/School on our placement website.  Also, we recommend that you speak with your academic advisor regarding your College's Global Foreign Language requirement.

We strongly encourage you to take the placement exam at least two weeks before you are scheduled to meet with your academic advisor.  Although most students will receive the results of their exam within a couple days after completing it, those students who score an FF (French), GG (German) or SS (Spanish) will also be required to take the Phase II exam to determine their placement into our curriculum.

Each of our placement exams is offered throughout May, June and July.  Registration is mandatory for each of our testing dates.  If the Phase 2 exam is also required, students will receive an email about 24 hours following their Phase I exam indicating this.  

We also offer exams a few days prior to the beginning of the fall and spring semesters and on at least two separate testing dates each month throughout each semester.

 You will register for an appointment to take a placement exam online through our placement website.  Follow the instructions carefully and be sure to check your University email for the confirmation you will receive because it contains important information about your exam.  Additionally, you will receive actual testing instructions three days prior to your scheduled exam.

 If you used your USC email account to register, but did not get the confirmation message, send an e-mail to, and we will try to figure out what happened.  If you used an account other than your USC email, check your junk/spam folder for the confirmation email.
You should send an email to requesting that we cancel your current appointment. Once you receive confirmation that your current registration has been canceled, you will be able to register for a different testing date.
Most newer Windows and Mac operating systems will work.  Additionally, you will need a webcam, microphone and speakers and a broadband internet connections.  
A couple of days prior to your scheduled exam, you will receive an email detailing how you will download Respondus Lockdown browser with webcam monitoring and take a practice quiz to test for technology issues.  On the day you will take the exam, you will complete a short honor code assessment and then will be allowed to take the placement exam.

Different languages use different formats. 

French, German, and Spanish – There are two separate exams.  Most students will only need to take the first exam, however.  The Phase I exam is a timed (50 min) multiple-choice assessment with questions of varying difficulty based on grammar, vocabulary, and reading comprehension.  

The second phase of the placement exam is generally for students with higher levels of proficiencies or for students whose proficiency cannot be determined by the multiple choice exam.  The phase two for German and French have writing and speaking activities.  The phase two for Spanish has grammar, writing, and speaking activities. The phase 2 exam usually takes 45 minutes to an hour to complete.

Arabic - The Arabic exam contains multiple-choice questions on reading comprehension and grammar.   There are also several writing prompts that must be submitted separately as part of your exam.  Additionally, a separate speaking exam must be arranged with our Arabic Placement Coordinator.  More information about this will be sent to you a few days prior to your exam.

Chinese - There are two separate parts to the Chinese placement exam.  (1) There is a multiple choice section with several reading, listening and grammar-based questions.  (2) Students will also demonstrate their writing ability by completing several writing prompts.

Italian - Students who complete this exam will have 60 minutes to complete two writing prompts and a separate portion with vocabulary and grammar-based multiple-choice questions.

Japanese - Students will choose to take either the Beginning to Intermediate or Intermediate to Advanced exam.  Next, they will have up to 90 minutes to complete grammar, listening, reading and vocabulary questions in multiple-choice format.

Latin – The Latin exam is an online multiple-choice exam.  Generally, students complete it in 30-45 minutes.

Portuguese - Students will have up to 60 minutes to complete writing and grammar-based questions.

Russian - The Russian exam consists of three separate sections.  Students are asked to complete a multiple-choice portion on comprehension and grammar.  Also, they will be required to complete speaking and writing prompts to demonstrate proficiency in those skills.

Results for foreign language placement exams can take up to one week to process.  Generally, however, results are available on Self Service Carolina in two to three days.

Your placement score can be found under the Student menu on Self Service Carolina.  From there you can click Student Profile and then select the Testing tab.

No.  You will not be awarded credit based on your language placement score alone.  Some students who score above the first course in the curriculum may be eligible for back credit if they take the course they place into and receive a B or better in that class.  This is not guaranteed.  Please note the following exceptions:

•    If you have AP or IB credit for 121 and/or 122, you are not eligible to receive additional back credit.
•    If you are a native speaker of the language, you are not eligible to receive additional back credit.
•    If you have transferring college-level foreign language credit from another institution, you are not eligible to receive additional back credit.
•    If you took the placement exam and took a course different from that in which you were placed, you are not eligible to receive additional back credit.

The online application to apply for back credit can be found on our placement website..

Students are only allowed to select one language for each registration request.  If you wish to take an exam in a second language, you may submit a second registration request, this time for the second language.  You will receive confirmation emails for each language. 

Please keep in mind, however, that you should only take exams in languages that you have previously studied.  

 If you have either never previously studied the language, or if it has been over four years since you last studied the language, you may request exemption from the placement exam by submitting the online placement exemption form.  Once you receive confirmation via email that the form has been approved and processed, you will be eligible to register for the introductory-level course in that language.

You will have satisfied your College's foreign language requirement.  Then, if you take one of the qualifying upper-level language courses and earn at least a B, you may be eligible for up to seven hours of back credit (for 121 and 122).

You may request the advanced standing credit by completing the online application for back credit.


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